A team endeavor, S’enforester delivers a diversity of approaches: Baptiste Morizot puts on paper what Andrea Mantovani makes us feel through the images. Bringing together art, politics, and ecology, the photographer and the philosopher depict a range of emotions and images elicited by the forest.
The last forest of old
The ground is strewn with dead wood, felled trunks, and overgrown stumps. Białowieża dispels any idea we might have had of a primeval forest. Straddling Polish and Belarusian border, it is one of the last remnants of the vast forest that covered the plains of northern and central Europe after the last ice age. In 2017, to respond to a threat from a an insect that destroys trees, the Polish government started a logging campaign. This decision immediately mobilized ecological protest to protect the forest.
“Białowieża is the site of one of the most important conflicts of our time: it bears witness to the complexity of the relationship between humans and living being,” notes Andrea Mantovani. Rejecting a journalistic approach to documentation, Mantovani steered her work toward a deeper, more personal, imaginative reading. She went to Białowieża initially for three weeks, and ended up staying seven months.
A geographer by training, Mantovani spent six years working on environmental and social issues in Europe. Her work, both fictional and documentary, testifies to her interest in living things and territories. Winner of the Focale Award, Mantovani’s project on the Białowieża forest shapes the myth of the virgin forest in our imagination. The young woman wanders around the woods and takes snapshots, guided only by her instinct.
A sylvan fairy tale and a cinematic trek
Amid misty landscapes and almost supernatural settings, something uncanny transcends the lens. Every picture seems to hold a secret. At once poetic and true to life, “the photos are not mere illustrations: they deliver a message and imprint an image on our minds even while they deal with current events.”
Taking advantage of the ambivalence between the ancestral forest and gloomy post-Soviet atmosphere, Andrea spins her photographic narrative like a movie script. However, there is no need to force the issue: a true forest of our childhood tales, Białowieża is as bewitching as it is fascinating.
“Through Białowieża we speak of all our forests”
“This forest is not us, because it is not our habitat, our environment, our landscape,” writes Baptiste Morizot. Distant, inhospitable, and foreign, Białowieża is nevertheless the very root of existence. A vestige of the past and an emblem of primitive life: to enter Białowieża is to travel back in time. According to Mantovani, the forest above all challenges our future: “Through Białowieża we speak of all our forests.”
Because “being enforested” is more than being immersed in the forest—it means heeding its message.
S’enforester, photographs by Andrea Olga Mantovani and text by Baptiste Morizot. Éditions d’une rive à l’autre, 48 €.